Many tours will take your clients to the birthplace of Christianity 2,000 years ago, but none will take you on a journey of spiritual discovery and learning dating back nearly 12,000 years – to the very origins of our beliefs…and take you there under the expert guidance of Lavinia Byrne, a former nun and Jeremy Seal, a well-known travel writer with a passion for Turkey.
A new tour from Jon Baines Tours travels from Istanbul to south eastern Turkey, an area rich in ancient history and culture that also lays claim to being the cradle of belief. Tour leader Lavinia Byrne takes you to an area undiscovered by mass tourism that offers such gems of antiquity as the first site of worship in the world. Along the way experience a traditional society much more in tune with history than the modern day and enjoy its cuisine. Lavinia will give a series of specialist talks during the tour and is accompanied by guest speaker and travel journalist Jeremy Seal.
This is the only tour that offers the expertise and insights of both Lavinia Byrne and Jeremy Seal.
Fly to Istanbul – the only city in the world that spans two continents. Lavinia will give a background talk on Anatolia at a traditional tea house, then take a private cruise along the Bosphorus for lunch, before flying to Diyarbakir.
Explore the old city of Diyarbakir encircled by triple walls built of striking black basalt that originally date back to 394 A.D. Visit the stone caravanserai of Deliller Han, the Arab-style Ulu (Great) Mosque built in 1091 by an early Seljuk sultan, and the 3rd century Aramaic Church of the Virgin Mary.
After lunch cross the River Tigris to the beautiful Arabic-style town of Mardin, perched high on a rocky mountain over a vast sunburnt plain.
The following morning drive to Mor Gabriel, a monastery dating back to 396AD which rises mirage-like from the desert surroundings. Visit Tur Abdin (Mountain of the Servant of God), and the monastery of Qartmin, which has been inhabited by the Syrian Orthodox Christians from the fifth century. Continue onto the lovely honey coloured village of Hasankeyf, which clings to the rocks of a gorge above the Tigris River. Lavinia will give a talk on the belief systems of the area.
Visit the recently excavated site of Göbekli Tepe, which is considered to be the oldest man-made place of worship yet discovered and hear Jeremy Seal speak on Göbekli Tepe and the birth of worship.
Continue on to Harran, a small settlement on the edge of the desert. Occupied since at least 2,000 BC, it seems certain that this town, with its distinctive beehive dwellings, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places on earth. It’s even mentioned in Genesis. Hear a talk about life on the Silk Road before driving to Sanliurfa for dinner and overnight.
Explore Sanliurfa, the ancient city of Urfa, the next morning. Visit the medieval citadel overlooking Urfa with its Roman columns and visit the Mevlid Halil mosque, the Cave of Abraham and the sacred fish pool.
Next morning drive to Adiyaman via the Ataturk Dam and hear Lavinia speak about the role of geography in shaping history. Drive to the World Heritage site of Nemrut Dagi and walk to the summit.
After breakfast next day drive to Halfeti, a town situated in a picturesque canyon, and hear Jeremy Seal talk about local agriculture and the ‘nut and fruit-growing culture’. Take a boat trip on the Euphrates to Rumkale. Drive to Gaziantep later in the afternoon to visit the stunning Mosaic Museum, which features mosaics excavated from Belkis-Zeugma.
Explore Gaziantep including the old city castle and a copper bazaar, and stop for tea at a local baklava shop. Stay overnight and head to Goreme in Cappadocia the next day, stopping en route at Kahramanmaras for coffee and ice cream, and hear Lavinia give a talk on the Cappadocian Fathers.
Goreme is a small village set amid towering fairy chimneys and majestic honeycomb cliffs. Take a tour of its open air museum, visit Pancarlik and the lovely town of Uchisar, and then on to a winery for some wine tasting.
Next morning visit the village of Mazi and call at the Ihlara Valley to visit some churches in spectacular settings. Spend your final afternoon at leisure before a talk summing up Turkey by Lavinia at a farewell meal at the lovely Nature Cave Hotel.
Tour Leader, Dr Lavinia Byrne has had ample opportunity to study the effects of religious belief on the development of culture and art. A former columnist for The Tablet and book reviewer for the Church Times, she has also broadcast with BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day and as a religious commentator. Lavinia has spoken on and led tours to Syria, Jordan, Iran, Cuba, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, China and Kyrgyzstan.
Jeremy Seal is a British travel writer with a particular fascination for Turkey. Jeremy has written about the country in books including A Fez of the Heart (1995); Santa: A Life (2004) and mostly recently in his award-winning Meander (2012), which recounts his solo canoe journey down Turkey’s Buyuk Menderes River. Jeremy also writes regularly about Turkey for a range of publications including the Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, Conde Nast Traveller and the Australian.
The full cost of the tour, including flights, is £2,680.
For the full itinerary and brochure: www.jonbainestours.co.uk/tour/cultural-tour?tour=31